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Letter to the Editor: A health problem

— To the editor:

(Edited for length.)

I’ve communicated with my State Senator, Chuck Thomsen, on several occasions during this legislative session to bring together our respective wishes for gun safety and gun-ownership rights. The end of the session is nearing, and Oregon’s four gun safety bills are up for further work and voting. So we’re communicating again (or at least I am), and maybe others would like to as well (sen.chuckthomsen@state.or.us; (503) 986-1726).

Hello Chuck,

I am writing to again request your attention to the need for gun safety legislation. As a physician, I approach the gun safety issue not as a moral issue but as a public health crisis. As is true of most gun safety advocates at this time, I am not aiming to outlaw guns.

We have many individual rights subject to legislation at both the state and federal level because of health and safety implications. A pertinent example is that people who are blind cannot be licensed to drive motor vehicles. The legislation is preventive in nature and sensible in scope. It does not ban automobiles, nor does it prevent other licensed drivers from driving.

Many who oppose current efforts at gun safety legislation do not feel that tighter gun safety laws are needed, and insist citizens owning and using guns make the country safer, not more dangerous. NRA member and New Jersey gun rights advocate Bill Haney asserts “The United States is one of the safest countries in the world because there is a Second Amendment.” But statistics and words can be used creatively to make points that really don’t hold water.

The U.S. homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 residents pales compared with some other countries, particularly in underdeveloped regions, according to a 2012 study by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime: 38.0 for Zambia; 40.9 for Jamaica; 91.6 for Honduras. But such a comparison is much more relevant among more culturally and economically similar peers: the U.S. rate is more than double most Western European nations, where there are strict gun control laws.

Oregon’s four current gun safety bills are in front of the Rules Committee, awaiting a bipartisan workgroup’s deliberation. Public safety is hanging on one more vote to approve. Chuck, I urge you to join in supporting universal background checks and gun-free schools as part of a sensible prevention-based response to the escalating public health problem.

Bonnie New, MD MPH

Hood River

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